Triangulating When Jesus was Born
September, 6 BC = birth
September, 5 BC = 1st birthday
September, 4 BC = 2nd birthday
September, 3 BC = 3rd birthday
September, 2 BC = 4th birthday
September, 1 BC = 5th birthday (There was no Year Zero in those days)
September, AD 1 = 6th birthday
September, AD 11 = 16th birthday
September, AD 21 = 26th birthday
September, AD 31 = 36th birthday
September, AD 32 = 37th birthday
So, April, AD 33 = aged 37 and a half.
37.5 years = (5 BC Years from Sept. 6 BC to Sept. 1 BC) + (AD 32 Years from Sept. 1 BC to Sept. 1 AD 32) + (AD 1/2 Year from Sept. AD 32 to Apr. AD 33) = 5 + 32 + .5. Another way to look at: (37 years of age) - (6 BC) + (1 Year because there is no Year Zero) + (1 Year because at AD 33 Jesus is still 37 years old) = (Death on the cross at AD 33). Another way to look at: (37 years of age) - (Death on the cross at AD 33) + (1 Year because there is no Year Zero) + (1 Year because at AD 33 Jesus is still 37 years old).
"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age" (Luke 3.23) when he started His ministry. Let us work from the basis the Word has made no mistake (since it hasn't), unless proven otherwise! (which is impossible.) "About" could mean anywhere from 25 to 35 and certainly not 20 to 40. His ministry was for 3 to 4 years so Jesus died between the ages of 29 to 39. Pontius Pilate ruled from AD 26 - 36 AD to give us the approximate year. Can we do better than this?
If Jesus died on the cross AD 33 (Friday) at the age of 37 (beginning His ministry at the age of 33 or AD 29), we need to add 4 (37 yrs - AD 33) years from Year Zero backward, plus add 1 year because there is no Zero Year in those days, and add 1 year because you don't count the year of His death since not one full year was reached at the age of 37 to the age of 38 according to the math of it (e.g. 3-2=1, not 2 because you don't count 3 as 4). This brings us to Jesus' birth at 6 BC.
If Jesus died on the cross AD 30 ( Wed ) at the age of 34 (beginning His ministry at the age of 30 or AD 26), we need to add 4 (34 yrs - AD 30) years from Year Zero backward, plus add 1 year because there is no Zero Year in those days, and add 1 year because you don't count the year of His death since not one full year was reached at the age of 34 to the age of 35 according to the math of it. This brings us to Jesus' birth at 6 BC.
By comparing the above two paragraphs we see that if the cross was at AD 33, then Jesus died at the older age give the same birth dates in both scenarios. To say Jesus died about AD 30 is probably not to say He died on AD 30.
People always contend between whether Jesus died on Wednesday or Friday, being in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. If Jesus was captured on Thursday, He was in the heart of earthly Israel for 3 days and 3 nights. If He died on Wednesday, then he would have literally bee under the earth for 3 days and 3 nights.
"When Herod [the Great] died" (Matt. 2.19) at 4 BC (his death Nov. 27, 4 BC is commonly known and recorded in history books), Jesus would have been about 2-3 years old. How do we know this?
We know Jesus would have been about 2-3 years old around 4 BC when He and his parents returned to Israel from Egypt because Herod had died, and the angel would have told Joseph and Mary as soon as Herod died. Let's prove this.
"After the wise men were gone" (Matt. 2.13) "an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, 'Get up and flee to Egypt with the child and his mother'" (v.13) because "'Herod is going to try to kill the child'." (v.13). This move to Egypt occurred before Herod tried to kill Jesus, obviously.
Herod tried to kill Jesus within two years after Jesus was born. We know this because Herod "sent the soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under" (v.16) "because the wise men had told him the star first appeared to them about two years earlier" (v.16). The star first appeared when Jesus was born: "Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him." (Matt. 2.1-2).
Let us assume that Herod died within one year after killing the children of Jerusalem because one of the parents of those children sought vengeance upon Herod for his criminal act.
By this reasoning, this is how we discover that Jesus was about 2-3 years old around 4 BC which means Jesus had to be born about 6 BC. Is there other corroborating evidence for this fact?
Even Richard Carrier, a non-Christian, admits "Even after the civil wars were ended, Augustus was only able to complete three of the general censuses in his long reign." These were taken in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D. [Augustus says this too in his own writings as some of his major accomplishments].
Assuming it takes about a year or so for the news to get to the people that they need to return to their home towns to take the census, this places the birth of Jesus one to two years after 8 BC and 2 years before 4 BC which brings us to 7-6 BC.
Jesus was born at the time of the census because Luke writes, "At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire" (2.1); and,
"All returned to their own towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was obviously pregnant by this time. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village in" (2.4-7).
There was no room, possibly, because of the out-of-towners returning to their home town to take the census.
"This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria" (v.2). Quirinius was governing Syria from 12 BC to 2 BC. His name is mentioned in Res Gestae - The Deeds of Augustus by Augustus placing him as consul as early as 12 BC, giving him a governmental and military role in Syria. The census at 8 BC for Israel was the first census taken, since the census taken in 28 BC did not include Israel at that time.
Conclusion: Unless more information comes into my puny brain to change this position, it seems as though Jesus at the outside was born somewhere between 7 BC and 6 BC. If you would like to get a more exact dating, even the exact day, month and year Jesus was born, read below! Easy as pie!
Please correct me if I have made any mistakes. To the best of my knowledge I have not made a mistake here. I am just trying to locate the closest date to when Jesus was born, given the fact that we know He lived.
If you still don't think Jesus lived in person on earth then that issue can be tackled elsewhere. For example, we have "129 reported facts concerning the life, person, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, plus the disciples' earliest message. We have examined 45 ancient sources for the life of Jesus, which includes 19 early creedal, four archaeological, 17 non-Christian, and five non-New Testament Christian sources. Of our 45 sources, 30 record this teaching [deity of Jesus], which surprisingly includes seven of the 17 secular sources" [Historical Jesus, Gary Habermas, 250-251]. Jesus Himself said He was God with such titles as "Son of God" and "Son of Man" [Ibid., chapter 27].
"Of all the events in Jesus' life, more ancient sources specifically mention his death than any other single occurrence. Of the 45 ancient sources, 28 relate to this fact, often with details. Twelve of those sources are non-Christian, which exhibits an incredible amount of interest in this event. Not only is Jesus' death by crucifixion of major concern to these authors..." [Ibid., p. 252].
"Of our 45 sources, 18 specifically record the resurrection" [Ibid., p. 253].
Luke tells us that Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry (Luke 3.23). However, he does only say "about"; he doesn't really know. He could have been anywhere from 25 to 35. Can we do better than this? Yes, we can.
Luke 3.1-2 tells us that John the Baptist started preaching in the 15th year of the Emperor Tiberius's reign. Tiberius became emperor in AD 14, so John's ministry began in AD 29. Some time later, John baptized Jesus and Jesus began His ministry (Luke 3.21-23), so this is likely to have been in AD 29 or 30. (Incidentally, it is this fact, combined with Luke's guessed age for Jesus, that puts His birth wrongly in 1 BC or AD 1, as determined by Dionysius Exiguus, and thus gives us our modern calendar.)
In addition, John 2.20 tells us that, at the start of Jesus's earthly ministry, the temple in Jerusalem "has taken 46 years to build." By this, we can assume that the building began between 46 and 47 years previously (in the same way that a person described as "46 years old" is actually between 46 and 47 years of age). Now it is known that Herod began the rebuilding of the temple towards the end of 19 BC. This would put the start of Jesus's ministry late AD 29 (18 BC -1 for no zero year +29 AD). If Jesus was born 6 BC, then He would have been around 34 years old at this time (remember, there was no Year Zero). [6 BC + (-1) + 29 AD = 34].
John mentions three Passover festivals during the ministry of Jesus (Jn. 2.3, 6.4 and 11.55). Note that these cannot be the same festival, because other festivals occur in between (Jn. 5.1, 7.2, 10.22). Thus, we can assume that Jesus's ministry lasted for at least three years, and that He was put to death in AD 33.
Jn. 19.42 states that Jesus was buried on the eve of the Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew), i.e. on a Friday, which was also the eve of Passover (Jn. 19.31, cf. Lev. 23.5), i.e. Nisan 14. Let's look at a table of Passover dates for years near to those in which we are interested:
|Hebrew Year (AM)||Christian Year (AD)||(Gregorian) Date of Nisan 14||Day of Week||Jesus's Age|
As we can see, the only years that have Nisan 14 on a Friday are AD 33 and AD 36. The AD 36 date would put Jesus in His forties, making Luke's estimate of Jesus being "about 30" when He began His ministry (Luke 3.23) way out! This means that Jesus must have died at 3 p.m. (Luke 23.44-46) on Friday April 1st, AD 33. The Devil thought he had made a fool out of Jesus on that April Fool's Day, but it was the other way round (Heb. 2:14, 1 Cor. 1.25), for on Sunday, April 3rd, AD 33 (John 20:1), it was discovered that He had been raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit was then sent (Acts 2.1-4) at Pentecost (Sivan 6), which was Sunday May 22nd.
As if to confirm all this, Daniel chapters 9 and 12 lay down a time-line regarding the coming of Jesus but not the length of his ministry.
In Daniel 9.24-27, there is a prophecy regarding the coming of Jesus. To understand the prophecy and the time measure indicated by "70 weeks" (v. 24), we have to understand the Jewish concept of a "week". The Hebrew word for "week" is "shabua" and literally means "seven". It can thus refer to any period of seven; the Jews were familiar with a "seven" of both days and years. In Hebrew, the idea of 70 weeks is "70 sevens (of years)".
The prophecy is given in three specific parts concerning the Messiah.
If Daniel is correct, the time from the edict to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Nisan 1, 444 BC) to the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem is 483 years (69 x 7), each year equaling the Jewish prophetic year of 360 days.
The terminal event of the 69 "weeks" is the presentation of Christ Himself to Israel as the Messiah, as predicted in Zech. 9.9. Let's calculate the date of this event:
Multiplying the 483 prophetic years by 360 days for each year gives a total of 173,880 days. Dividing this by 365.2425 (the number of days in a Gregorian year), gives 476 solar years. Adding 476 years on to 444 BC, one comes to AD 33. This is the year of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which we celebrate on Palm Sunday just before Monday, March 30, 33 AD (Julian) for the 4 day inspection of the lamb Jesus Christ (March 30, 31, April 1, 2). Jesus was cut off Friday, April 3, 33 AD (Julian)
While much of the world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th of December, can the actual day of Jesus' birth be determined from scripture? This question will be explored in some detail, and will yield a result that is quite intriguing. The first passage we will consider begins with the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias:
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, ...
Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, ...
The clue given to us here is that Zacharias was of the "course" of Abia.
The 24 Courses of the Temple Priesthood.
King David on God's instructions
(1 Chr 28:11-13)had divided the sons of Aaron into 24 groups (1 Chr 24:1-4),to setup a schedule by which the Temple of the Lord could be staffed with priests all year round in an orderly manner. After the 24 groups of priests were established, lots were drawn to determine the sequence in which each group would serve in the Temple. (1 Chr 24: 7-19).That sequence is as follows:
1 Chr 24:7 1. Jehoiarib 2. Jedaiah 1 Chr 24:8 3. Harim 4. Seorim 1 Chr 24:9 5. Malchijah 6. Mijamin 1 Chr 24:10 7. Hakkoz 8. Abijah 1 Chr 24:11 9. Jeshuah 10. Shecaniah 1 Chr 24:12 11. Eliashib 12. Jakim 1 Chr 24:13 13. Huppah 14. Jeshebeab 1 Chr 24:14 15. Bilgah 16. Immer 1 Chr 24:15 17. Hezir 18. Aphses 1 Chr 24:16 19. Pethahiah 20. Jehezekel 1 Chr 24:17 21. Jachim 22. Gamul 1 Chr 24:18 23. Delaiah 24. Maaziah
1 Chr 24:19 These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.
Now each one of the 24 "courses" of priests would begin and end their service in the Temple on the Sabbath, a tour of duty being for one week
(2 Chr 23:8, 1 Chr 9:25).On three occasions during the year, all the men of Israel were required to travel to Jerusalem for festivals of the Lord, so on those occasions all the priests would be needed in the Temple to accommodate the crowds. Those three festivals were Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Deut 16:16).
The Yearly Cycle of Service in the Temple.
The Jewish calendar begins in the spring, during the month of Nisan, so the first "course" of priests, would be that of the family of Jehoiarib, who would serve for seven days. The second week would then be the responsibility of the family of Jedaiah. The third week would be the feast of Unleavened Bread, and all priests would be present for service. Then the schedule would resume with the third course of priests, the family of Harim. By this plan, when the 24th course was completed, the general cycle of courses would repeat. This schedule would cover 51 weeks or 357 days, enough for the lunar Jewish calendar (about 354 days). So, in a period of a year, each group of priests would serve in the Temple twice on their scheduled course, in addition to the 3 major festivals, for a total of about five weeks of duty.
The Conception of John the Baptist.
Now back to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, ...
Beginning with the first month, Nisan, in the spring (March-April), the schedule of the priest's courses would result with Zacharias serving during the 10th week of the year. This is because he was a member of the course of Abia (Abijah), the 8th course, and both the Feast of Unleavened Bread
(15-21 Nisan)and Pentecost (6 Sivan) would have occurred before his scheduled duty. This places Zacharias' administration in the Temple as beginning on the second Sabbath of the third month, Sivan (May-June).
1st Month 2nd Month 3rd Month Abib - Nisan
(March - April)
Zif - Iyyar
(April - May)
(May - June)
Jehoiarib (1) Seorim (4) All Priests
Jedaiah (2) Malchijah (5) Abijah (8) Third
(Feast of Unleavened Bread)
Mijamin (6) Jeshuah (9) Fourth
Harim (3) Hakkoz (7) Shecaniah (10)
Having completed his Temple service on the third Sabbath of Sivan, Zacharias returned home and soon conceived his son John. So John the Baptist was probably conceived shortly after the third Sabbath of the month of Sivan.
The Conception of Jesus Christ.
Now the reason that the information about John is important, is because according to Luke, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the sixth month of Elisabeth's pregnancy:
Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
Luke 1:25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Luke 1:27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
Note that verse 26 above refers to the sixth month of Elisabeth's pregnancy, not Elul, the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, and this is made plain by the context of verse 24 and again in verse 36:
Luke 1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for the last 3 months of her pregnancy, until the time that John was born.
Luke 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Luke 1:57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
Now working from the information about John's conception late in the third month, Sivan, and advancing six months, we arrive late in the 9th month of Kislev (Nov-Dec) for the time frame for the conception of Jesus. It is notable here that the first day of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, and Jesus is called the light of the world
(John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46).This does not appear to be a mere coincidence. In the book of John, Hanukkah is called the feast of dedication (John 10:22).Hanukkah is an eight day festival, celebrating the relighting of the menorah in the rededicated Temple, which according to the story, stayed lit miraculously for eight days on only one day's supply of oil.
The Birth of John the Baptist.
Based on a conception shortly after the third Sabbath of the month of Sivan, projecting forward an average term of about 10 lunar months (40 weeks), we arrive in the month of Nisan. It would appear that John the Baptist may have been born in the middle of the month, which would coincide with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is interesting to note, that even today, it is customary for the Jews to set out a special goblet of wine during the Passover Seder meal, in anticipation of the arrival of Elijah that week, which is based on the prophecy of Malachi:
Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Jesus identified John as the "Elijah" that the Jews had expected:
Mat 17:10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
Mat 17:11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
Mat 17:12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Mat 17:13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
The angel that appeared to Zacharias in the temple also indicated that John would be the expected "Elias":
Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
So then, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th day of the 1st month, Nisan, and this is a likely date for the birth of John the Baptist, the expected "Elijah".
The Birth of Jesus Christ.
Since Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist, and we have established a likely date for John's birth, we need only move six months farther down the Jewish calender to arrive at a likely date for the birth of Jesus. From the 15th day of the 1st month, Nisan, we go to the 15th day of the 7th month, Tishri. And what do we find on that date? It is the festival of Tabernacles! The 15th day of Tishri begins the third and last festival of the year to which all the men of Israel were to gather in Jerusalem for Temple services. (Lev 23:34)
Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Immanuel means "God with us". The Son of God had come to dwell with, or tabernacle on earth with His people.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The word in the Hebrew for dwelt is succah and the name of the Feast of Tabernacles in Hebrew is Sukkot, a festival of rejoicing and celebration:
Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Luke 2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Why was there no room at the inn? Bethlehem is only about 5 miles from Jerusalem, and all the men of Israel had come to attend the festival of Tabernacles as required by the law of Moses. Every room for miles around Jerusalem would have been already taken by pilgrims, so all that Mary and Joseph could find for shelter was a stable.
Also of note is the fact that the Feast of Tabernacles is an eight day feast (Lev 23:36, 39). Why eight days? It may be because an infant was dedicated to God by performing circumcision on the eighth day after birth:
Luke 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
So the infant Jesus would have been circumcised on the eighth and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a Sabbath day. The Jews today consider this a separate festival from Tabernacles, and they call it Shemini Atzeret.
So, if you have followed the above reasoning, based on the scriptural evidence, a case can apparently be made that Jesus Christ was born on the 15th day of the month of Tishri, on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which corresponds to the September - October timeframe of our present calendar!
|Jewish month||Begins the
New moon of
|John the Baptist||Jesus|
|1. Abib / Nisan||March-April||Birth of
|2. Zif / Iyyar||April-May||5|
Conception of John
|5. Ab / Av||July-August||2||8|
|7. Ethanim / Tishri||September-October||
Birth of Jesus
|8. Bul / Marheshvan / Heshvan||October-November||5||
|9. Chisleu / Chislev / Kislev||November-December||
Conception of Jesus
|10. Tebeth / Tevet||December-January||7||1|
|11. Shebat / Shevat||January-February||8||2|
Tabernacles Future Fulfillment
It is also interesting to note the Tabernacles was a feast of ingathering of the Harvest (Exo 23:16 and 34:22). If Jesus' first coming was indeed on 15 Tishri, the first day of Tabernacles, then it is quite reasonable to presume that the harvest of this earth, the ingathering of the second coming of Jesus Christ, will also occur on precisely the same date. The unknown factor would be the year that this would happen.